The Journal Editorial Report | March 18, 2005 | PBS
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briefing and opinion
March 18, 2005

Head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council's (SNSC) Foreign Policy Commission Hossein Mousavian, right, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs member Amir Hossein Zamaninia, talk at a two-day international conference on nuclear technologies and sustainable development in the Iranian capital on March 6, 2005. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
Head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council's (SNSC) Foreign Policy Commission Hossein Mousavian, right, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs member Amir Hossein Zamaninia, talk at a two-day international conference on nuclear technologies and sustainable development in the Iranian capital on March 6, 2005. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)



Q: Although the EU-3, the IAEA, and the Bush Administration want Iran to terminate enriching uranium, Iranian officials insist Iran has an inalienable right to continue this activity under the NPT. Aren't they right?

A: No. The "inalienable" (i.e., nontransferable) right Iran has under Article IV of the NPT to develop peaceful nuclear energy is, in fact, qualified. Properly read, it prevents the kind of dangerous enrichment activities Iran is pursuing. There were attempts by Spain and Mexico in the final months of NPT's negotiation to impose a "duty" on the part of nuclear power states to share the "entire fuel cycle" (including enrichment) with other members. Both were rejected.

In fact, neither the words "enrichment" nor "reprocessing" are in the treaty's text and with good cause. If every nation had an unqualified right to enrich uranium, make nuclear fuel from nuclear weapons usable materials (e.g., highly enriched uranium or plutonium), or to chemically separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel, the world would soon be crowded with nations which would all be within days or weeks of having nuclear bombs. The NPT, by this view, would not prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, but, instead, become the legal ruse by which nations could acquire them.

This is an absurd reading of the treaty. Of course, member states retain and can exercise their right to develop civilian nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but only if they do so "in conformity" with the treaty's other prohibitions not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons directly or indirectly "in any way". To be peaceful, a nuclear activity, then, must be neither unnecessary nor dangerous and be capable of being safeguarded as the NPT requires, i.e., monitored in a manner capable of "preventing diversions of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons."

   
1. Overview
2. Inalienable Right?
3. Iran's Latest Offer
4. Worldwide Implications
5. The Restrictions
6. Photo Essay

Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, left, and head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, sign an agreement at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, February 27, 2005. Iran and Russia signed a nuclear fuel agreement, paving the way for Iran to get its first reactor up and running.  (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, left, and head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, sign an agreement at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, February 27, 2005. Iran and Russia signed a nuclear fuel agreement, paving the way for Iran to get its first reactor up and running. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)